A hunter in Slovenia decided that the only way his buddies would believe he saw a unicorn is if he shot it, which he did. As the news spread and millions of believers around the world reached for their pitchforks and flaming torches, a scientist did an autopsy and assured them this uni-horned creature was a male roe deer with antler issues.
Stories of unicorns date back to ancient Greece and tales of magical one-horned creatures are told wherever two-horn or antlered animals exist. One-horned anomalies of domestic horned animals like goats and cattle pop up regularly and belief in the magical and usually aphrodisiac powers of single horns keeps people hunting for them while driving rhinos, narwhals and other naturally one-horned species to near extinction.
According to Boštjan Pokorny, the scientist who correctly identified the creature, the hunter knew it was a roe deer and an elderly one at that. The most common game in Slovenia, male roe deer (the females don’t grow antlers) are often seen with one horn missing due to an accident or a fight over a doe. In this case, the large single horn was the result of two antlers growing together, possibly due to a head injury. While rare, another roe deer with a single horn growing from the center of its head was discovered in Italy in 2008.
Need further proof or reassurance the hunter didn’t kill a real unicorn? In European folklore, the unicorn is a symbol of purity and can only be captured by a virgin sitting naked under a tree, which the manly male hunter was not.
Also, it’s a deer, not a horse. This creature might be closer to a qilin, sometimes called the Chinese unicorn, which is said to have the body of a deer, head of a lion, scales and a single horn. The qilin is a symbol of wealth, prosperity and military might throughout Asia, so the hunter is probably fortunate he didn’t kill one of those either.